I confess, I have been concerned about what I am about to write. Now that I have committed myself to a series on Reasons to Obey God, I have a few concerns to address.
First of all, it’s a lie that if you start to listen to God’s voice, all He wants is to tell you what to do. The devil loves to take our greatest fear and whisper, “If you listen to God, He’ll tell you to____” fill in the blank.
The truth is, when I started to listen to God’s voice, only about 5% of what He said was telling me to do things. The other 95% primarily consisted of Him telling me how much He loved me.
I’m so glad I didn’t miss that.
But the issue at stake is whether I am 100% submitted and surrendered and trusting Him enough to obey when He does tell me what to do. That makes a world of difference. That’s what I wanted to write about.
And my other hesitation is summed up well by Hebrews 12:9 and 10.
“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.”
We each have our own different history of human parents who did “as they thought best.”
We all have the same future with the Perfect Parent, who truly knows and does what is “for our good.”
But we all start out seeing that Perfect Father from the perspective of our very different fathers (and mothers) who “did as they thought best.” And I don’t know everyone who will read these words and what their experience of “father” and “discipline” has been. And while I wanted to write about the ways that God has “disciplined me for my good, that I may share in His holiness,” I am so afraid that if I do that first, somebody is going to hear me saying something about Him that I’m not. That I will contribute to somebody believing the lie that God is angry, or harsh, or controlling, or unpredictable, or abusive, or something else I can’t predict.
And He’s not. I promise, He’s not.
So before I say anything about the scary-sounding words “the discipline of the Lord,” I want to tell a story.
I was at a ministry school, in a class processing past wounds (especially those from the sins of parents). At one point, the teacher told us to just lay our heads down on the table and listen to a worship song. When we did, the Lord gave me a vision in my mind’s eye.
I saw that every earthly father in the world was given a room to furnish. The room was the place where in the future, that man’s child would meet with God. The room represented that child’s idea of “father.”
Each father furnished the room however he wanted. Some fathers, like mine, knew that they were preparing this room for God Himself. They feared God and did their best for Him. Some of them were so careful, adding two chairs and low lighting and a coffee pot, trying to facilitate their children knowing intimacy with God. They were actually thinking, “I need to teach my child what loving authority and unconditional love look like, because they will need to believe in those things in their relationship with God.”
Some fathers couldn’t care less. Maybe they sexually abused their children, not knowing or caring that they were trashing the room. They sprayed the four walls with gasoline, lit a match, and walked away.
Most fathers were in between these two extremes.
But in the end, all the fathers left the room behind, and God moved in. And no matter what He had been given to work with, He worked with it. If He had been given a coffee pot, He plugged it in and turned it on. If there was no furniture, He brought in the best. If the very walls were rotten, He started ripping out beams and buying new ones. I saw that He started to carry everything out of that room that was not true of Him and to bring in anything that was missing.
Later, over lunch break, I shared my vision with some friends. One of them shared that she’d had almost no relationship with her earthly father. She’d gone for an emotional healing session of listening prayer, but hadn’t heard anything from God. She had only “seen” a picture of Jesus dressed like the host of the TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
She told us about the show, where they choose some deserving family with a bunch of kids in a dilapidated house, arrive on a bus, send them to Disney World, and then DEMOLISH their house and build them an over-the-top luxurious palace with towers. Then they bring them back and unveil the new house with lots of joyous screaming and crying.
“But I don’t understand what it meant to see Jesus dressed like that guy,” she finished.
“Wait a minute…” I said. “What happens if you look at your vision in the light of mine?”
The light bulb went on for both of us at the same moment. She was grieving the emptiness of her “father room,” that her earthly dad hadn’t left her any good memories to help her understand God’s love. Jesus was promising to be like the host of that show, the one who arrives on the bus to bring screams of joy and excitement. He would not just bring furniture but demolish her old idea of fatherhood and rebuild her a palace with towers. He wanted to do an Extreme Makeover on her idea of the Father’s love.
I believe He wants to do that Extreme Makeover for all of us. And when He does, it will be a whole lot less scary to obey Him and a whole lot less scary to listen for His voice.
What does your “father room” look like now?
Does it look very different now than it once did? Have you and the Lord been on a long journey of renovations together? Or are you just about to begin one?
Are there treasures your parents left behind that you want to honor them for? Is there garbage left behind that you need to forgive somebody for and throw away now?
Does your room seem homey and fully furnished now, but there’s just a cluttered object or two left behind that don’t belong, a few leftover lies about God as Father that He wants to take out with the trash?
Or are you and Jesus camped out together outside of that room because it’s still too damaged to even go in and see God as Father at all? If so, I know He loves you and He will build a campfire to warm you, roast marshmallows with you, whisper secrets in your sleeping bags and tell you stories under the stars until your renovations are ready to move inside again.
If you want to try “cleaning your room,” here are some good questions to ask God about it. Ask Him each one, and then just listen for the first thought He brings to your heart. It may help to write it down. I learned these from Katie Luse of Connect Up ministries:
God, is there a lie I am believing about You as Father?
Where did I learn this lie?
Is there someone I need to forgive for doing something that taught me this lie?
I choose to forgive…
Father God, what is the truth about You?